How Do You Deal with Criticism at Work?

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Whether at work or life, we hear criticism from others. 

We can’t stop people from giving us criticism, but we can always determine how we react to and deal with it. 

You’ll probably agree to what we say next: 

We receive the most criticism at work. 

We spend most of our time at work. Fulfilling our duties, participating in projects and meetings. Yet in the midst of all, we’re subjected to criticism. If you’re wondering, we’re not referring to constructive criticism here. 

Have you experienced unjustified criticism and was deeply hurt by it? Are you on the verge of quitting your job because of unnecessary criticism that does more harm than good? While some may think such criticism is a good motivator, others may see it as a harsh blow with humiliation in front of their peers.

Being subjected to condemnation undoubtedly hurts our pride, inclining us to take any action (right or wrong) possible to restore that ego. Therefore, let us deal with criticism together with these respective solutions.

1) Don’t Bottle Up Your Anger 

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We got criticised. We feel angry. It’s unfair. You don’t deserve it. 

The bottled up anger causes a rush of negative and unwanted stress hormones to our bodies. Let it out by all means. Whether it’s via writing it out, talking to someone you can trust, or spending some time alone to meditate — do what it takes to relieve the bottled up anger. Don’t swallow it. 

When sharing your story with your close confidants, hear out their opinions. The more you share your stories with others, the better. It will make the tale of your criticism less grave than before and you will end up feeling more light-hearted. You may even end up ridiculing it by the time you tell the 5th person about it. The entire fiasco will become less painful for yourself as you realise it may not be as severe as it seems initially.

Do whatever you need to to prevent it from affecting you negatively and resorting to extremes.

2) Cater Time for Self-Reflection 

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After calming your nerves down, we believe one has to reflect on his work progress and have regular check-ins with himself.  

Blaming others may seem like the easier and faster option when something goes wrong. But it won’t be long before you realise it isn’t what you’re seeking for.

When you have the desire for self-reflection, you stay away from negativity and your anger diminishes quicker. Learn from your mistakes and take the initiative to start making positive changes forward on.

For instance, when I was unjustly shouted at by my manager in front of of my colleagues, I decided to hold her accountable for targeting me. I felt that she could have lashed out on anyone but she chose me. However, the thing is, she doesn’t care whether I think it was unjust or not. So I decided to gain my composure to step back and look at the bigger picture.

Rather than wasting time and energy hating on someone, it’s better to focus on yourself. Spend some time at the end of each day to reflect. Look for ways on how to further develop yourself and learn new skills. Aim to do better than yesterday. 

And remember, it’s only a bad day, never a bad life. 

3) Seek to Understand and Listen 

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We all have people to answer to at work. You have to answer to your supervisor. Your supervisor has to answer to his manager. And the manager has to answer to upper management. The list goes on. This is what we’d like to call a “Cycle of Fury”.

E.g. A customer gets mad about a restaurant service and reports it online. The owner lashes out at the restaurant managers on doing a poor job training the service crew. The next batch of people to get reprimand are the supervisors in charge of the service crew. The story ends once the service crew are criticised. A story also similar to mine.

As the rage is translated from one person to another down the hierarchy, it heightens in tension. However, studying this cycle is also an eye-opener. I came to understand that people are doing their jobs. They have expectations to meet. It’s what they have to do.

However, this does not give anyone the right to insult or lay hands on anyone. It’s about understanding and listening closely. Most of the time, it’s not personal, and you shouldn’t take it personally.  

Try putting yourself in the shoes of the other party and re-evaluate the situation. There’s a high possibility they’ve nothing against you as a person, but rather, your work performance.

4) Avoid Acting Rash Out of Anger 

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Only time can heal what reason cannot. — Lucius Annaeus Seneca Click To Tweet

Are you going to quit your job because of a few naysayers? No. 

Rather than jumping on any wagon and making irrational decisions (you’ll end up regretting), adopt this method of not making any decisions for the next 24 hours. You’ll be in for a surprise. 

Haven’t you heard of the saying? 

“Don’t make any decisions when you’re angry, and don’t make any promises when you’re happy.” 

Keep this close to your heart and you can avoid making terrible mistakes and bad decisions in your lifetime. 

Eventually, everything falls back into place. It’s understandable we cannot help feeling infuriated or defeated at our circumstances, however, remember that these circumstances are only temporary. Life continues to move on. And you should too. 

5) Your Attitude Counts 

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Albeit, criticism can bring us down and make us feel our contributions at work deem unworthy.

Therefore, it’s necessary to see the silver lining despite it. Criticism are like the small humps on the road that make the journey more challenging, but the distance still needs to be travelled.

Like a wise one once said, Positive attitude gives you power over circumstances instead of your circumstances having power over you.

Having the right attitude when receiving criticism can help you get far at work. You learn how to manage it properly without letting it affect you. Your attitude counts and your perspective is everything.

Let the contentment spread through you and look at the brighter side of things. The glass is half full not half empty.

6) Learn from Your Mistakes 

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Now that you’re in a brighter state of mind, don’t let your mistakes fool you twice.

The immediate goal anyone should have after dealing with criticism is not to take any petty revenge but to prove yourself as the bigger and wiser one of the two. Never repeat the same mistake you were condemned for.  

Take the entire episode of criticism as a learning experience to grow and evolve into a sharper individual. Never let similar mistakes borne out of carelessness, come in between you and your job. However, if you still feel sour and unable to put this episode behind you or still remain deeply affected by this incident, repeat this saying to yourself, “Best revenge is massive success.” — Frank Sinatra

7) Maintaining Professional Relations 

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It’s a small world out there. We don’t have to like the person we work with, but we need to get the job done. 

No matter our title at work, we ought to treat everyone we meet and know with respect and basic courtesy. If you think you can start treating a person badly because of your powerful status or you’re leaving the company soon, you’re making a grave mistake. 

You never know who you may meet next. The world may be small but we’re all interconnected. 

Work gets easier when we choose to maintain good relations with our colleagues and bosses, disregarding whether we like them or not. This doesn’t mean you have to suck up to them, but rather, learn to respect each other’s differences.

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2 comments

  • Learned a lot from this knowledgeable article.This is definitely going to help me in the future and I will take critisim with a positive attitude.

    • We’re glad to hear that! Thank you for your kind words.

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